After a spinal injury at the start of the summer holidays, Sarah was left confined to a wheelchair and wondering how she would cope with a young family and her ambition to set up a new health and wellbeing business.

Unperturbed by her painful condition, Sarah was determined to do everything she could to get back on her feet as quickly as possible. An appointment with consultant neurosurgeon Mr Kenan Deniz resulted in her meeting with senior physiotherapist Dan Garbutt to plot her recovery.

“After a brief spell in hospital and agonising pain, I was determined to beat my condition which had left me with numbness & weakness in my left side and unable to walk. I’d been treated at the Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital before and my mum had physio with Dan after her knee replacement so I felt confident I was in good hands,” said Sarah.

Dan advised a combination of treatments including weekly walking sessions on an anti-gravity treadmill, plus daily exercises and two weekly walking sessions in the pool.

Elite athletes including Mo Farah and Gareth Bale have used an anti-gravity treadmill to recover from serious injury, and many of the top football clubs have installed the machines as permanent fixtures to support their players.

The AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ integrates patented, NASA Differential Air Pressure (DAP) technology to create a pressurised air chamber to uniformly reduce gravitational load and body weight in precise 1% increments. AlterG enables patients and athletes to move unrestricted and pain-free – restoring and building muscle strength, range of motion, balance, function, and fitness.

Outpatient Clinical Lead Physiotherapist Dan Garbutt said: “Over the course of the last three months, Sarah’s improvement has been remarkable. She has proved that despite having severe back pain, physiotherapy and exercise can be effective in relieving pain and restoring function. Here at Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital, we are one of the largest centres in the North for Spinal and Neurosurgery conditions and work closely with some of the best specialists around, so a surgical opinion is always an option but not something that we would want to rush into.”

He continues: “We have been very lucky to be able to utilise the AlterG treadmill as part of Sarah’s recovery. The most recent evidence advocates the importance of movement and exercise for back pain, and having the ability to ‘de-weight’ patient’s and steadily increase this back to body weight has allowed us to take huge steps in getting people active again - and has certainly reduced the time it takes to achieve their goals.”

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I watched a promotional video and felt excited to give it a go,” recalls Sarah.

“I was zipped into a treadmill that inflates to take your body weight so I could do walking and interval training exercises without putting too much pressure on my back. It was really nice to feel like I was doing something physical and I noticed an immediate difference in my posture after the first session. It was still painful exercising on the treadmill but it definitely helped my walking posture and my confidence.”

After a couple of months of exercising and just four sessions on the AlterG treadmill Sarah is now able to walk unaided indoors and with a stick outside, although she still relies on a wheelchair for longer days out, such as the Flamingo Land trip the family enjoyed during half term.

“It’s been a really tough few months with my family having to cope with the distress of seeing me in pain and unable to do all the things I would normally. Not being able to drive has been really difficult, and my husband has been an absolute star supporting me and ferrying me around. I’ve stayed positive and focused on getting better and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the progress I’ve made.”

Now she’s back on her feet, Sarah is concentrating on getting her new business up and running too.

“I’m setting up a health and wellbeing business with my business partner that focuses on mental health. I went to a networking meeting in September in a wheelchair which was a bit daunting, but I’m hoping to get to the next one without it!”

To find out more about the AlterG call Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital physiotherapy team on 0113 388 2064

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